White Regency 03 - White Knight (9 page)

BOOK: White Regency 03 - White Knight
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Chapter Nine

Christian
watched Grace as he started toward her. It was late, he knew, and a small part
of him had thought perhaps she’d have fallen asleep. He hadn’t expected to be
so long in coming there.

He’d spent the better part of the past few
hours with a bottle of brandy, telling himself he was allowing Grace time to
prepare for the inevitable conclusion to the evening, when in truth, it was he
who had needed the time. Not since he’d been a boy of fifteen, when he’d
confronted his own virginity with Lord Whitby’s seventeen-year-old daughter in
the hayloft of the Westover stables, had he felt so awkward and uncertain.

He was about to consummate his marriage,
while at the same time he would
not
consummate his marriage.

At nine years of age, a boy is not yet
fully able to fathom the repercussions of his actions. He does without
thinking, never considering what the consequences might be five, ten, or even
twenty years later. So when Christian had stood facing his grandfather the duke
hours after watching his father die, his only thought had been to protect the
family he had remaining, his mother and his unborn sibling. He would have
agreed to cut off his left arm if he’d had to, but the duke had had other
thoughts in mind.

“You will live the life I choose for
you, Christian. You will follow the course I have chosen for you; you will wed
when I decide you will; and, when the time comes, you will give me your
firstborn son.”

How easy it had seemed all those years
ago, how far off in the future, how
fair.
Two lives for two lives; his
mother and the babe she carried for his own and that
of a child that he
couldn’t even begin to imagine. It had seemed almost as if he were getting the
better part of the bargain and even as his mother had begged him not to,
Christian had entered into the duke’s agreement, scribbling his nine-year-old
signature across a contract the duke had hastily drawn up. What choice had he?
If he hadn’t, the duke would have seen them all destroyed.

So Christian had passed the next two
decades living the life that had been chosen for him. He had now married the
woman chosen by his grandfather and he would do his duty in making her truly
and completely his wife—but he would be damned if he was going to play the role
of Westover stud and beget the next unfortunate male heir while that diabolical
old man yet lived. So he had made a plan. He would take his wife’s virginity,
honoring his agreement with the duke, but he would never bring the encounter to
its usual conclusion by spilling his seed within her womb. In that, his
grandfather would be denied the life of yet another innocent. It was the only
way Christian could endure living with the bargain he’d made, the only way he
could face himself in the mirror every day. And for that reason above all else,
he was determined that he should feel nothing while seeing to the business of
deflowering his wife.

Christian came across the room to stand
silently at the side of the bed. Grace didn’t move, didn’t make a sound; she
simply stared at him from where she lay buried among the pillows, lost on that
huge bed. Her hair was loose and curling about her shoulders, shimmering like
liquid gold as it spilled over the bedclothes. Christian checked an impulse to
reach out and test its softness. He focused his attention on her wide eyes
instead.

Grace blinked.
“Yer
not the
maid,” she said, her words coming too quickly for her mouth to properly
form them.
“Yer
Lord Knight’n.”

“Yes, my lady, but I think it would
be better if you would call me ‘Christian.’ “

“Chrish-dinn,”
she repeated, nodding slowly. She closed her eyes a
moment then looked at him again and smiled. “I am
Gra-ce.”

He resisted the urge to smile in return
and said instead, “Grace, would it be an accurate assumption to say that
you drank the entire pot of tea I sent up to you?”

“Uhmm,” she nodded. “You
took a very long time in coming.”

“I am sorry. Matters took longer than
I had expected.”

In fact, Christian had never realized
before then just how much thought went into the taking of a wife’s virginity.
All the while he’d been downstairs, he’d tried to consider the best means for
approaching the task, weighing one against the other until in the end it had
come down to a sort of preconjugal checklist, a practical plan for a hapless
bridegroom. First, he had offered her a bit of brandy to ease her maidenly
fears. From the looks of her now, it had worked. Next, he would need darkness
to protect her modesty…

Christian leaned over and blew out the one
remaining candle at the bedside table, casting them in the muted firelight.
“You didn’t eat very much of your supper this evening.”

Grace shook her head. She then furrowed
her brow as if she were suddenly troubled.

“Is something wrong?”

“I was just wondering why the room
keeps moving even though I am quite certain my head has gone still.”

Christian frowned. Perhaps the brandy
hadn’t been such a good idea after all. She was half-tipped.

“You didn’t care for what the cook
had prepared for supper?”

“No. I mean yes. I did. It was very
good, what I had of it, but I just … I just … I …”

Grace lost her words as she watched
Christian walk around to the other side of the vast bed. He sat at the edge of
the mattress, right beside where her leg was stretched out from under the
bedcovers, and moved on to the next item on his checklist—to discern just how
much Grace knew about sexual relations.

“Grace.”

She watched him warily as he positioned
himself closer to her. “I know what
yer
going to do.
Yer
going
to take my ‘ginity now, aren’t you?”

Christian leaned on one elbow above her.
“Yes, Grace, I am.”

He put his hand on the knot that held the
sash of her dressing robe and slowly loosened the tie. Grace barely gave the
maneuver notice. She was far too busy staring into his eyes with an expression
that wasn’t at all fearful or even nervous, but utterly curious. It
disconcerted him, the openness of her gaze. It was not what he had expected
from his virginal wife. He had told himself to approach this night simply as a
task that had to be done no matter how disagreeable, like so many of the
interminable philosophical lectures he’d had to sit through while he’d been at
Eton. But how the devil, he wondered, did one liken lovemaking to Descartes?

“Grace, what do you know of the
relationship between a man and a woman?”

Grace smiled, blinking slowly. “Oh, I
know more than you think I know.”

He raised a brow. “Indeed?”

She nodded confidently. “You think
I’m
mishish… misssh… mi
—” She gave it up, saying instead,
“You think I don’t know what you are going to do to me… to take my
‘ginity.” She smiled. “But I do.”

“You do?”

“Uhmm.” She looked baldly down
at the sash of his own robe and said quite matter-of-factly, “Needle and
thread.”

Christian quirked a half-smile. “Did
you just say ‘needle and thread’?”

She looked at him, seeming startled by his
response. “You mean you don’t know? Grandmother told me men were born
knowing these things.” She giggled. “How funny to think that I will
have to teach you.” She sat up on the bed and looked at him then and said
with utter seriousness, “You see the way it works is I am the needle and
you are the thread…”

Christian stared at her, dumbfounded.

“…without one, the other cannot
create a true stitch.”

Good God, he thought, the situation was
more hopeless than he’d figured. She hadn’t the faintest clue what the sexual
act entailed. Needle and thread…

“Grace, how many times have you been
kissed by a man—I mean, other than an affectionate peck from a family
member?”

Grace stared at him, carefully
contemplating his question. “Including you?”

The memory of her visit to his dressing
room the night of Eleanor’s ball flashed through his thoughts. “Yes.”

“Once.”

He had thought as much. Christian stood
from the bed. Perhaps a bit of philosophical inquiry would serve after all. If
he educated her on the facts of it all, prepared her for what would happen, it
might prevent a fit of hysterics when the moment of consummation was at hand.
He reached for her. “Grace, come to stand before me.”

Grace moved from the bed until she stood
looking up at him in the firelight. Her hair was mussed from the pillows and
her nightgown was buttoned all the way to her chin. Her bare toes curled
against the thick carpet as she waited for him to do whatever it was he planned
to do. Christian tried to ignore the soft floral scent of her as he leaned
toward her and touched his lips to hers. She stood completely still, her mouth
warm and giving, her kiss chaste and unversed. After a moment, he pulled away.

Grace opened her eyes and blinked.
“Was that all? Are we finished taking my virginity already?”

“Not quite.”

Determined to keep things on a purely
philosophical level, Christian said, “Grace, I am going to assume you have
never seen a man’s body before.”

She nodded silently, then thought the
better of her response and shook her head instead.

“A man’s body is very different from
that of a woman. It is made that way for a reason, so that they may join
together—physically.” Still she stared at him. “I don’t want you to
be frightened. So I would like you to look at me, at my body, before we
consummate our marriage.”

Christian loosened the belt of his
dressing robe. Watching her closely, he parted the fabric in front and let the
weight of it drop to the floor. He wore nothing underneath, of course, and
kissing her had aroused him
more than he cared to admit. He watched her eyes as
they moved over his chest down to where his sex stood erect from his groin. She
furrowed her brow as if confused by him, by how things might work between them.
He saw the moment of realization in her eyes when she knew what would soon
happen. But she didn’t move to back away or look at him in fear. Instead,
slowly, tentatively she reached out and touched two fingers to his hardness.
Christian’s body jerked in response. She pulled quickly away.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

Christian looked at her, swallowing hard
in effort to take control of his quickening pulse. He was thankful for the
darkness. “You didn’t hurt me, Grace. A man’s body reacts sometimes
without his meaning it to.”

She didn’t understand, of course, and he
didn’t have the ability at that moment to explain, so instead he urged her
toward the bed and lay her back against the pillows.

Christian fought to take control of the
emotions that were stirring within him. He positioned himself beside her and
kissed her again, this time covering her mouth with his and drawing her fully
against the length of his body. As he did, he took a journey back in time to
Eton, to hour upon hour of dictum and lecture. He deepened the kiss, stroking
his tongue slowly against hers. She tasted of tea and the brandy he’d laced it
with and her hair fell softly against his cheek. He already knew that Grace had
never known such a kiss but still she didn’t shy away as he had expected her to
do. Instead his virginal little wife kissed him back. He felt Grace open her
mouth against his, pressing her body even closer to him. He felt a jolt take
him deep inside.

Affected more than he cared to admit,
Christian pulled away and looked at her. “We will take this slowly,”
he said more to himself than to her. He’d come to her this evening set on doing
his duty as a husband, but only so far as he would need to leave the proof he
knew the servants would be looking for on the sheets, her virgin’s blood. He
had told himself he could separate his body from his mind. It appeared,
however, that this
wouldn’t
prove easy, for already his blood was pounding through his veins—this after
he’d only kissed her once.

He began reciting philosophic precepts in
his head, anything to occupy his attention as he loosened the buttons that held
the front of her nightdress, his fingers slipping them one by one through the
tiny closures down to her belly. He pushed the fabric aside and drew in a
ragged breath at the untouched whiteness of her skin, the tautness of her
rose-hued nipples. She was perfect in every way. She would be tight around him,
he knew, when he entered her and the thought of it taunted him. He pushed the
fabric upward over her legs to bunch at her waist, taking in the sight of the
golden down at the joining of her thighs. Inwardly he contemplated Socratic
dialogues in an effort to cool his increasing desire.

Christian told himself it would go easier
if she were at least somewhat aroused, so he kissed her again and as he did, he
brought his head lower along the swell of her breast before closing his mouth
over her nipple. Grace arched her back, sucking in a sharp breath as she was
taken by the first sensations of desire. She brought her hands upward, lacing
her fingers through his hair as he drew on her, fisting her hands as he took
her further and further into the untried world of her own sensuality.

BOOK: White Regency 03 - White Knight
7.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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